Robert of Holy Island

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Robert of Holy Island
Bishop of Durham
Elected 24 September 1274
Term ended 7 June 1283
Predecessor Robert Stitchill
Successor Antony Bek
Consecration 9 December 1274
Personal details
Died 7 June 1283
Bishop Middleham
Buried 10 June 1283
Durham Cathedral in the chapter house
Denomination Catholic

Robert of Holy Island (or Robert de Insula; died 1283) was a medieval Bishop of Durham.

Robert was the son of crofters and was a native of the island of Lindisfarne.[1] He had a brother, Henry, who became Robert's executor. He became a Benedictine monk at Durham, where he served as sacrist from 1265 to 1269. He was prior of Durham's dependent monastic cell at Finchale Priory by 1272. Robert was sent as a representative of the Durham cathedral chapter to the Second Council of Lyon in 1274.[2] He was elected to the see of Durham on 24 September 1274.[3] He was consecrated on 9 December 1274 at York.[2]

While Robert was bishop, in 1281 the Archbishop of York, William Wickwane, declared that he was going to inspect the cathedral chapter at Durham. The monks claimed an exemption from oversight by the archbishops of York and were supported by Robert as bishop. When the archbishop attempted to enter the cathedral chapter in June 1281, he found the doors shut and locked. Both sides sued each other and the resulting litigation dragged on for years. In fact, it was never technically resolved and is one of the longest law cases on record.[2]

Robert died on 7 June 1283[4] at Bishop Middleham. He was buried in the chapter house at Durham Cathedral on 10 June 1283.[2] In the 19th century, a grave identified as his was excavated in the chapter house.[5]


  1. Moorman Church Life p. 25
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Robert of Holy Island", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces): Durham: Bishops
  4. Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 242
  5. Carver "Early Medieval Durham" Medieval Art and Architecture p. 13


  • Carver, M. O. H. (1980). "Early Medieval Durham: the Archaeological Evidence". Medieval Art and Architecture at Durham Cathedral. British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions for the year 1977. Leeds, UK: British Archaeological Association. pp. 11–19. OCLC 13464190.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Greenway, Diana E. (1971). Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces): Durham: Bishops. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 25 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Moorman, John R. H. (1955). Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century (Revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. OCLC 213820968.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Piper, A. J. (2004). "Holy Island, Robert of (d. 1283)" ((subscription or UK public library membership required)). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14434. Retrieved 2 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Robert Stitchill
Bishop of Durham
Succeeded by
Antony Bek